May 8, 2006

Radio Open Source Podcast and President Bush's sneaky trips around the law

I've been listening to a few Podcasts ever since I got an iPod, and one of the ones that I really enjoy on the morning commute is Radio Open Source, a show that has a very wide range of interesting topics and a fairly balanced presentation of the issues. Of course, I say balanced, but the host, Christopher Lydon, is definitely a liberal kind of guy, and there are liberal leanings in the show, but I really like that they take the time to really talk about an issue over the course of the hour-long show. It is also nice that the show just about covers my door-to-door commute from home to work.

Today's show just amazed me. It was about the signing statements that President Bush quietly files after signing a bill into law. The signing statements, which I had never heard of before, are supposed to give an indication of how the President interprets the bill, but in Bush's case have been used to selectively ignore portions of bills that he does not like.

For the full story you should read the article by Charlie Savage explaining how Bush uses signing statements to side-step the due process of the law. It is well worth the read, and I just can not believe how far Bush has gone to sidestep the political process that makes America potentially so great. You can read more comments on the Radio Open Source page for this story.

Also, congratulations to me on what is probably my first blog post that qualifies for entry into the "blogosphere".

April 23, 2006

Cooking, writing, and revising

This weekend has been consumed entirely by writing and revising, with a short break in between to cook dinner. I'm trying to finish off a fellowship application by Sunday, but I also wanted to cook, something I haven't done for a long time. I decided I'd make my standard spaghetting meat sauce (mushrooms, multi-colored peppers, hamburger meat, and tomato sauce base) for spaghetti that would hopefully feed me a few times in the coming week. I also made garlic french bread (burned, as usual) and onion potatoes. These potatoes are really great, my mom has made them a few times. Basically you marinate some cut up potatoes in onion soup mix and oil, then bake them for about half an hour until they are soft. I couldn't find the onion soup mix that I usually would use, but did find some "onion consume" which worked, but the flavors were a bit weak. Still, they were pretty good.

Anyway, it was nice to take a few hours off from writing to cook and have dinner with Tai and Aya. I would like to cook more often, but I'll have to learn some new tricks if I do. I've already made curry a few times, and Gyuudon would be expensive here. I might try Oyakodon soon though.

April 16, 2006

Eric's Going away party

Eric leaves to return to America in a few days. As his friends, we were obligated to have a going away party. Ami was nice enough to allow us to use the Joyful Time bar, and afterwards we went to sing some Karaoke. I've got proof of the bar part at least.

April 14, 2006

Nescafe Low Sugar

Today's daily Japanese coffee is Nescafé's Bitou Coffee, or low sugar coffee. It was hot, and pretty good. Sweet for something that is low sugar.

From today on I will only post daily coffee updates to the Daily Japanese Canned Coffee section. I know I don't post much - mostly I'm just working and commuting, so nothing terribly interesting happens - but I don't like how these coffee pictures are overrunning my blog.

I have so far tried every coffee in one of the vending machines at work. I've got two more to go, and then I need to start on the local convenience stores.

April 2, 2006

Hamarikyuu Park and Monjya-yaki

F. and I went for a walk in Tokyo on Saturday. We first went to Hamarikyuu Park, and looked at some of the cherry blossoms. They are just about in full bloom now. NHK was there filming, which we later saw on TV that night. Hamarikyuu Park has a pine tree that is 300 years old. It's a pretty impressive tree.

After the park, we walked through Tsukiji, and went to a place that specialized in Monjya-yaki. Monjya-yaki is like Okonomiyaki, only it doesn't thicken up as much. It was quite good. We had an order of Cod fish eggs (mentaiko, 明太子) and a mix of shrimp, octopus and something else. It was very nice. I think architects and artists would like monjya-yaki (a Tokyo-area specialty I'm told) because first you have to build a restraining wall with space in the middle out of the solid ingredients, cook it a bit, and then pour in the soupy stuff, and cook it all together a bit. Once it has firmed up a bit, you mix the stuff up and cook it through, then eat it up. Good stuff.

On the way to dinner we also passed by the Tsukiji Hongwan temple, which is a very unusual temple architecturally. It looks more like it follows in Indian architectural tradition. It was closed though, so I didn't get to find out very much about it.

March 28, 2006

細木和子 (Hosoki Kazuko) Japanese fortune-teller, and Japanese dramas

So I got home at about 8pm today, ate dinner and started flipping through channels on the TV. I came across a special for Hosoki Kazuko's birthday, who is a well-known fortune teller. She has people on a show and then gives them (typically brutal) advice, from what I could tell.

I really couldn't believe some of the advice that she was giving. This particular special had 100 female high school graduates on the program. They would survey the audience about a topic, get the results, and then Hosoki Kazuko would give a little lecture. Anyway, she seems to be extremely conservative. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I certainly think that from an American perspective, people would think she is setting women's rights back about 40 years. For example, one of the questions was "Do you regret losing your virginity?" These girls are all about 17 or 18 I think, and the poll answer was something like 22 yes to 78 no. Hosoki ripped into them for being too young and being deceived by men because they are too trusting. Certainly that might be a problem, but I would think that for most people there they were dating people their own age, and how else does one learn about the world anyway?

That really isn't too shocking, but she also had some other really bad advice I thought. One girl said that she was really looking forward to starting to work and taking a job. One of the reasons she gave is that it is a way to get independence, and if for some reason she had to get a divorce, how else would she support her family without a career? That doesn't sound like a bad thing to be thinking about to me, but Hosoki completely lambasted her for that. She gave some expression amounting to basically: "Women should have a child, love, protect, (maybe one or verb ending in ru). Men should go out, work, fight, struggle, (etc.). Together these two build a family. That is the role for humans. (Women and men.)"

Another woman said she wanted to become the Prime Minister in the future. She was told that it is a very honorable and good thing to become a mother and house-wife. There were some other things like that, but I was just really struck by her opinions. Now, I don't have anything against women who want to be housewives. But I also think it is great for women to want to have a career, and men should try to house husbands as well sometimes.

I was ready to go to bed, but while flipping around I ran into 都立商売 (School of Water Business), a Japanese drama based on a manga that I know nothing about. Water business though, is generally red-light district night-life stuff. This drama is a comedy about a girl who transfers into a high school where people learn to be hostesses, bartenders at gay bars, escorts, stuff like that.

I believe it is just a single 1:45 minute drama thing, and it is unbearably bad, but like a train wreck I can't stop watching it. The main actress, playing the role of Yamashita Sanae, is amazingly interesting: a half Japanese (I'm assuming half, I only know that her dad is British) woman named "Becky" (short for Rebecca) that has been living in Japan. Her Japanese is just perfect, unlike some of the foreign actors you see on tv (and she doesn't grate on my like David Spectre does.) Some interesting information on her on the Japanese wikipedia. Looks like she went to Asia University's Business Administration school in Japan, and has been in some shows in the past few years going only by the nick-name "Becky". I'm really impressed by her, and even though I really should go to bed now, I've somehow gotten drawn into this otherwise very average drama that is horribly over-acted.

Here are some pictures from the official site. I don't know how long they will last, but give them a try.

March 25, 2006

Celebrating one week at work (in Japan)

So this weekend I am celebrating one week at work in Japan. Things are going well so far, although the commute is a bit crowded sometimes. I've settled on getting up at 6:30 to catch a 7:10 train or so, getting in to work at 8:15. Going home varies, but usually it isn't as crowded as getting to work. I really do miss my "commute" at Columbia University: about a two minute walk door to door.

To celebrate, I went down to "Joyful Time", a bar in Gakugei Daigaku that my friend introduced me to. It is a nice little place, family run above their Chinese restaurant. A friend, Ami, runs the bar. It was good catching up, and I had one for E., doing research out in Osaka.

I'm going to Denny's for brunch today to meet another friend. I really like Denny's in Japan. I really like Denny's in America. They are the same company, but somehow different. I wish I hadn't given up coffee, because Denny's is one of the few places I know around here that has free refills. I'll see if they have decaf coffee, but decaf coffee in Japan is very rare.

March 21, 2006

Sightseeing in and around Tokyo

My friends Ron and Michelle stopped by Tokyo for four days to visit Eric and myself. They have been travelling around the world, Manilla and Hong Kong, while on Spring break. Ron is an excellent architect, so he had an entire itenerary of buildings lined up that he wanted to see. Since their time was brief (arrive Thursday evening, leave Monday morning) time was tight. I think we made the best of it though. Over the weekend we were able to visit: Roppongi Hills, and the museum in the Mori tower. Many shops around Omote-sando, my favorite was the Prada building. The Dior building was also crazy, with a strange mirrored interior reminiscent of 2001 A Space Odyssey, and the Todd's shoe store was strange too. We also went to Kamakura, and saw the large Buddha there. Kamakura was briefly (about 150 years from 1192 until 1333) the seat of the Government in Japan. There are some nice temples there, and we walked along the cold beach for a while. The other two interesting buildings we saw are the Tokyo Forum, a large convention center near Tokyo station, and the Yokohama International Passenger port terminal. It is crazy. We also stopped off at Chinatown in Yokohama, but it was a shame that Eric wasn't around to provide some background information. I just don't know much about the history of Chinese in Japan ( particularly when compared to some. ) Finally, we also took a stroll through the Imperial Grounds, which are quite close to where I work. Speaking of work, back to it. It turns out that today (March 21st) is a national holiday, the Spring Equinox. There aren't many people around at work, which makes everything seem a little creepy.

March 15, 2006

Landed in Japan

I arrived in Japan yesterday. Filled out the forms for my foreigner registration card today, and got a new cell phone. I start work tomorrow, and am utterly exhausted right now (9:30pm local time.) Looks like if I can get a good night's sleep tonight, jetlag might not be a problem.

February 17, 2006

Ditching SpamAssassin, using GMail as a Spam Filter

So I run my own mailserver that serves http://FuguTabetai.com/, http://MangaTranslation.com/, http://SMUGeeks.com/, and http://JevansCeramics.com/. The problem is, even after adding some extra rules to SpamAssassin, it really hasn't done a great job catching the spam, and worse it takes up a lot of RAM and CPU time on my virtual private server. The VPS is from http://RimuHosting.com/, and is really great. Look them up if you are in the market.

Anyway, each email would take about 600 seconds to process. That is a long time, and worse it was really bogging down the other apps on the system, such as this blog, or the forum for MangaTranslation.com.

So what I've done is turn off SpamAssassin, and forwarded the email catch-all for each domain to my GMail account. That has been working very well. Since most of my spam goes to untargetted email addressess, or aliases that I send to the catch-all, GMail catches the spam, and I just have to check my GMail account once in a while to find stuff that got through. Also, I set up some filters on GMail to mark which domain the email came from.

I could take this a step farther, and have GMail forward email that makes it into the in-box back to one of my accounts here. If I did that though, I would need to add a rule to postfix to have it check the header, and deliver any GMail-forwarded mail locally. Right now that doesn't seem like much of a problem, so I'll skip that step.

Where in the world are the Evans kids?

My grandmother and mother have a problem. They don't know where us Evans kids are. We travel around a lot, and don't stay in one place for long. So I thought it would be a fun project to code up a PHP / MySQL web application that puts us on a Google Map. Of course, I want to make sure that if I'm going to go to all this trouble it will be a general system, so I did user sign-up and each user can have multiple maps.

I have not yet added access control, which is the biggest problem: once you are on the system, anyone can put you on their maps, and all of your maps are visible to everyone. Still, it works pretty well for what I want to do, and I don't think this is going to be a well-known thing so I'm not too worried about privacy concerns. I will try to put in some access control stuff though.

The code should be released under the GPLv2 once I get around to packaging it up. It is my first PHP coding project, so it is probably pretty ugly, but since I use Smarty (also my first time with that) and ADODB for database abstraction, I think it should be reasonable.

Check things out: Where in the world Are the Evans Kids?

February 14, 2006

Added simple comment spam protection

I've added simple comment spam protection to my bblog. Hopefully it will keep the spam bots from getting comments in that I need to moderate. I'll put installation instructions below.

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February 5, 2006

Installing mt-daapd to server iTunes music from Fedora Core 4 linux box

So I have a collection of music that I like to play using Amarok on my Fedora Core 4 linux laptop, and since I recently picked up a 15" PowerBook, I thought it would be fun to install a daap server.

I decided on mt-daapd (over daapd, but I can't really say why.) There are Fedora Core 4 packages available, but I also wanted to include AAC along with MP3 streaming ability, and that requires mpeg4ip. I couldn't find a packaged version of mpeg4ip around, but I was able to download the tarball and install it without too much trouble. The one catch is that it required ffmpeg-devel, which was not in fedora-extras, but it was in the freshrpms repository, so once I installed that I was golden.

Installing mt-daapd was simple, just a question of downloading the RPMs and installing them. I edited the mt-daapd.conf and mt-daapd.playlist files, added and entry in mDNRResponder.conf to advertise the server via HOWL, and started everything up. Fired up iTunes on the PowerBook, and the music was there. Nice.

February 4, 2006

Adding rules to SpamAssassin and keeping them up-to-date automatically

So I've been getting a lot of spam lately, and decided to add more rules to SpamAssassin. I found two nice solutions for automatically (via cron or the like) download new rulesets. I've decided to go with Maxime Ritter's rule-get perl script, which is like apt-get in many ways. It stuck the script in /usr/local/sbin in case I lose it. :)

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January 14, 2006

15" Aluminum PowerBook hard freezes

So I've had a 1.67 Ghz PowerPC 15" Aluminum PowerBook for about two months now, and am really enjoying it. I'll have some stuff to stay later about porting Java applications to Mac OSX and some problems I've had with that, but for the most part things have been working very well.

When I ordered my machine, I upgraded the RAM to 2 Gigabytes. That is really nice. The problem is that my machine will randomly (really randomly) hard freeze: the mouse won't move, and sound that was playing will loop for the length of the sound buffer, no movement at all on the screen, etc. The only thing that you can do is hold down the power button for about five second to force the machine to shut off. That is a real bummer. Worse, it seems to happen more when I'm doing work: programming large apps on Eclipse. I suspect that it has something to do with the memory, but I wasn't able to find any errors with the RAM running memtest and I tried many combinations of RAM sticks in different RAM slots. I was able to freeze things in any combination of RAM sticks (1 gig + stock 512mb, 2 gig, and even 1 gig alone) but I couldn't freeze it with just the 512mb stick. So something about the 1gig sticks is bad.

I took the machine down to the Apple store at the Willow Bend mall in Plano, but they were unable to find any problems. It looks like I might have to send the machine back to Apple to get this checked out. I'll have to think about when the best time to do that would be though.

49 hours in busses, planes, airports and taxis

So I left Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday morning, catching a bus to get back to Singapore. The bus ride, on Aeroline, took five hours to get to Singapore. We watched "The Princess Diaries." I can't believe that I watched "The Princess Diaries", but I did. Also, did you know that you have to go through customs and immigration when you pass from Malaysia to Singapore on a bus? Of course, that makes sense, but it just seems strange to go through immigration from a bus.

When I arrived in Singapore, I had to catch a cab to the airport, and then I had about six hours to wait until my flight to Korea. The airport at Singapore is very nice, they have free internet access (wired only though - wireless is pay) and lounges that come with power and ethernet. The plane ride to Korea was about 8 hours or so, from 10pm at night and we arrived at about 5:30am at Inchon airport in Korea.

I had a fourteen hour layover in Korea, and that was just terrible. I was able to access the internet using my Maxis broadband monthly service that I signed up for while I was there, but it wasn't economical because you have to pay a roaming charge. I tried to find places to sleep, and did find the nice commuter lounge, but it was pretty full. Even if it wasn't, I don't sleep well on a small half-sofa. If you are lucky though, you can push two of the sofas together and make yourself a pretty nice bed.

The flight from Korea to New York was about 12 or 14 hours. I forget. I was sitting next to a pretty big guy and he took up the armrest - through no fault of his own, he was just large - and I was already tired so it just wasn't very comfortable. At least I got to watch some Law and Order episodes before my laptop battery ran out.

About two hours before the flight ended, I walked forward to the bathroom (instead of back to the ones I had been using) and noticed that my friend Jung-yun was on the flight! She was flying back to New York after visiting her friends. How crazy is that!?

After getting our luggage, Jung-yun and I split a cab back to Manhattan, I arrived at my friend's place, and stopped the timer for the trip. Total time in airplanes, airports, taxis, and busses: 49 hours and 49 minutes.

January 1, 2006

Happy New Year!

Celebrated the New Year in Kuala Lumpur with Gyn-Ian Yap, Sue-Ling, Ken-Wei, and Elissa. Nice fireworks at Petronas towers, and then a crazy crowd trying to get into the subway to get home.

December 31, 2005

Coffee Shops in Malaysia

I'm currently in Kuala Lumpur visiting a friend of mine from my undergraduate days. I've been meaning to visit Yap for years, and since Kualu Lumpur is only a five hour bus ride from Singapore, I finally was able to make the trip here. I've really enjoyed Malaysia so far, Yap and his girlfriend Sue-Ling have been taking me all around to see the sights. It is strange for me because this is the first time my Christmas and New Year's celebrations have been hot and sweaty. I'm not sure that I'm cut out for this sort of humidity, and the sun certainly doesn't work well with me. I have enjoyed the nice internet access that I've been able to pick up in the coffee shops though.

December 24, 2005

Weddings in Singapore

I went to Singapore for my friend Min-Yen Kan's wedding on December 23rd. I met up with another Columbia researcher, Michelle Galley, and we had a blast running around Singapore doing touristy things. I don't approve of the Taxi system in Singapore though: we spent two hours trying to get one once. Singapore's Taxis have been a bit kinder to me than Malaysian taxis though.

November 24, 2005

2005 Dallas Turkey Trot

2005 Dallas Turkey Trot On Monday the 21st I arrived in Dallas from Tokyo. The flight went well, in particular since I requested a seat with a power plug, I was able to use my computer for about four hours, and the flight seemed to go quickly.

On Tuesday, I drove down to Austin to pick up Alana, and Wednesday we loaded up her can and drove back to Dallas. On the way we picked up our registration packets for the 2005 Dallas Turkey Trot fun run. Alana, Dad, and I were going to run the 5k fun run on Thursday morning.

We got up at about 7am on Thursday so we could catch the 7:15am DART train from Parker road. We figured that would be easier than driving downtown since there was supposed to be a lot of people showing up for this race. We missed our train by about two minutes and had to wait about half an hour for the next train. Lots of runners were showing up in the mean time. We were able to get a seat on the train, and boy were we lucky. But the time we had gone three stops, the train was packed with runners, and by the time we hit Mockingbird station there was no room for people to get on. (Or so they thought, a normal Toyoko line late night train would be at least twice as packed.)

We made it to the run, and there were 24,000 people there. It was packed. When we started our race it took about 6 minutes to get up to the starting line from where we were lined up. We all stuck together and took the run slowly, it was lots of fun. It ran right through downtown Dallas, and went by lots of historical points in Dallas. I made a Personal Best slow time at 51:50.

Afterwards, we had thanksgiving dinner which was nice. Our stove broke, so mom had to run out and buy a broiler for $30, and we cooked the turkey in that. It turned out fairly well, and probably we'll use the broiler for a while since it is very expensive to get a new stove.


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